Sunday, October 13, 2013

An Evening With Gwen

I told my mom we were going to hear Gwen Ifill at the Oakland Speakers Series, and she said "Oh, I spend every evening with her!  Please give her my best."  and I thought  "Oh yeah, there are over a thousand people there - I'm sure that will happen."

Walking through the lobby, there was Jim Weil, the host of the Speakers Series.  And walking right next to him was Gwen Ifill.  Being the shy retiring violet I am, I called out "Hey!  You're supposed to be in there!" and I pointed at the auditorium.

Gwen smiled and said "I'll be right back - I just want to see some of this beautiful place."  She was so warm.  So when she stopped to say hello to someone, I went over and said "My mom said to tell you hello - she spends every evening with you."  Gwen laughed, and when I asked for a photo (so my mom would believe me) she could not have been nicer.  You'd never know there were a thousand people waiting to hear her speak.  Or a beautiful theatre waiting to be explored.
She talked about Congress behaving badly, and the deadlock (which hopefully will be over by the time you read this).   "They're acting like high-schoolers, not sitting together."  Actually I think high-schoolers are more mature.

She said "There are Federal employees who can't pay their bills, but the Congressional gym is open."  and "Did you know Congress is now less popular than head lice?"  Head lice is getting a bad rap.

"All the finger pointing is like a fun-house mirror - without the fun."  

And she talked about journalism - real journalism where you don't reach a conclusion before you have the facts, not the blow-hards who call themselves journalists while spouting opinions.  How it is the journalist's role to remain in the background - "I have an opinion,"  she said.  "But if I'm doing my job, you won't know what it is."  

She talked about being a black woman and a journalist and the Constitution:.  "I'm not the person the founding fathers had in mind  - it took about a dozen amendments to get to me."   And about how to let the audience know you know the person you're interviewing hasn't answered your question without being argumentative or petulant.  I haven't mastered that one yet.  I'll be watching her for help.

And she left us with a great parting thought.  "Asking questions doesn't make us bullies - it makes us citizens.  And patriots."

I'll be thinking about this for a long time.  We could all use more Gwen Ifill in our lives.  

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